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Published: 2/9/2006

Police share tips on what to do when crime literally hits home

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Officer Barbara Jackson simulates a break-in at a home in Point Place as Toledo Police begin a new, monthly program designed to educate residents on what to do if they are the victims of a crime. Officer Barbara Jackson simulates a break-in at a home in Point Place as Toledo Police begin a new, monthly program designed to educate residents on what to do if they are the victims of a crime.
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You come home from work and find the unexpected - burglars hit your residence.

If it's safe, go inside. Don't disturb anything and call 911. If it's not safe, go to a neighbor's house to call.

Reporting the crime and preserving the scene are two of the first steps after a burglary, police said yesterday as they kicked off a new monthly program intended to educate residents about what to do if they are victims of a crime.

The first "What To Do When" comes at a good time - burglaries and break-ins last month were 64 percent higher than January of last year.

"I can't explain the jump," Lt. Mel Stachura said. "The warmer time brings people out."

Last month, he said, police had 713 burglaries or break-ins at residences, garages, and commercial establishments. They logged 434 such crimes in January, 2005. Burglaries and break-ins also were higher in 2005 than 2004.

That's one reason why the new program has begun. During the segments, police also will explain to residents how police respond to crimes and how residents can try to prevent them, Sgt. Richard Murphy said.

For example, residents should lock their windows and doors and turn on a radio when they are gone to help prevent a burglary. Cut shrubbery around the home and leave a light on at night, police said. Make the house looked lived in.

During a simulation yesterday at a house in Point Place, Officer Barbara Jackson recovered a knife and looked for fingerprints on a back door where a burglar entered. She asked when the resident left and how long he was gone before going inside to determine if anything was taken.

She said officers will make a report of the crime and check smooth, clean surfaces for fingerprints. But prints might not always be found.

If a detective is assigned to the case, he or she probably will contact the victim in three to five days. If a resident later finds evidence, they should put it in a paper bag and police will pick it up.

Sgt. Bob Baumgartner said detectives should be sent to burglaries that occur when a resident is home - about 5 percent of the cases and the ones that most concern police.

Detectives won't be sent if there isn't sufficient evidence, a small loss, or no suspect. The victim will receive a letter and can send police an inventory of stolen items. Specifics about the items, such as serial numbers, are helpful. Victims also can contact detectives if they later receive information about witnesses or suspects.

"[Burglars] aren't out stalking people. They're out looking for opportunities - if you have a garage door open or mail in the mailbox," Sergeant Baumgartner said. "If they see a weakness somewhere, this is what they're after."

Contact Christina Hall at

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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